Activists dismantle Ukraine's biggest monument to Lenin at a pro-Ukrainian rally in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv on Sept. 28, 2014
Igor Chekachkov—AP
September 29, 2014 2:19 AM EDT

Ukrainian protesters in Kharkiv, a city in the nation’s restive east, toppled a prominent statue of Soviet icon Vladimir Lenin late Sunday night in the central square.

A group of men scaled the massive monument and carved into it the words “Glory to Ukraine” before sawing off the statue’s legs and pulling it down from its pedestal, Voice of America (VOA) reports.

Police reportedly did not intervene as thousands celebrated the statue’s fall and raced to the wreckage to collect makeshift souvenirs. However, RT says that a criminal investigation has been opened into “the destruction of or damage to cultural heritage sites and personal property.”

Let him fall,” wrote Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov, on his Facebook website, in Russian, according to a VOA translation.

The governor of the Kharkiv region had previously signed an order to demolish the statute, but demonstrators got to it first, the BBC says.

VOA says that more than 160 Lenin monuments have been pulled down since Dec. 8, when demonstrators began toppling the Soviet symbols in the capital Kiev.

Write to Elizabeth Barber at elizabeth.barber@timeasia.com.

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